"You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can't Make Him Drink"

Last Friday Governor Brown signed 4 school discipline related bills aimed at reducing the number of suspensions issued by California schools. Seems it needed to be done especially since more suspensions than diplomas are awarded each year. More than 700,000 suspensions are handed out each year affecting upwards of 420,000 students and amassing nearly 3 million lost school days.

Each of the four bills target specific discipline related areas. One makes the use of suspensions an option only after alternative disciplinary measures have failed to correct the student’s behavior. The new law also expands the list of alternative actions to include community service as well as positive behavior incentives. The second law prohibits schools from refusing admission or re-entry to any student solely because they’ve had contact with the juvenile justice system. The third law changes and the state truancy rules and also lowers fines currently imposed for truancy. Not sure how reduced fines is going to help.

The final law gives more discretion to school site principals in using alternatives to expulsions when disciplining students. That seems fair enough, but the second part of the new law is questionable at best. The new law does away with schools use of a zero tolerance policy and automatic expulsion in cases where a student brings personal medications to school or imitation firearms such as toy guns. With toy guns looking so authentic nowadays, I think the last part of this bill is going a bit too far. We also know that some students who bring personal medications to school often sell them to other students. We just made that easier for them. These four new laws are supposed to remedy disciplinary situations in schools across California by dealing with the problems on campus and keeping the kids on campus and in classes. But what type of message does that send to the other students? When rules are broken there must be a consequence, the more serious the offense the more serious the consequence. 

I understand that students have rights, among them the right to an education. In  a perfect world these laws might work, but in the current California school system with dwindling resources, fewer teachers, larger classes, and a growing number of students who display an apathy towards learning, these new laws make the job of educators that much harder.  Teachers and administrators have their hands tied already. Many of these student will be hand-held and walked through a series of alternative disciplinary practices before getting the consequence their actions call for. Several of them have been downright disruptive, defiant to teachers, administrators or other staff members, they’ve talked back or yelled at them, cursed at them or threatened them. What will it do for moral when a student who had an incident in the classroom and told a teacher to go f*#k herself is back in the classroom the following day? Don’t worry he’s learned his lesson, he was given community service or it’s okay we’re using positive incentives with him. Oh yeah teachers are going to love that! I tell you it’s not going to be pretty.

There is something seriously wrong here. We seem to be going the wrong direction. I mean who’s in charge? Certainly student’s have rights and should be given every opportunity to receive an education, but they have to want it. One student right that is not often brought up is a students right to fail! That’s right a student has a right to do absolutely nothing and fail! We can provide everything needed for an education, we can encourage them until we’re blue in the face. Hell we can even threaten them, but when all is said and done, it’s their choice. You can lead a horse to water but you cant make him drink.

I believe what these particular students need is a good old fashioned dose of corporal punishment. If schools can’t dole it out than parent should, but that’s not happening. The majority of these kids are spoiled rotten. Most of them don’t have a clue as to what real discipline is . When I was in high school (65 – 69) teachers were allowed to use corporal punishment as  part of their classroom discipline plan. There was no better deterrent to misbehavior than  the threat of being hit on the palm of the hand with a ruler or pointer or worse yet swatted on the butt with a paddle. To add insult to injury  smack down was done in front of the entire class! Ouch!

While at Bishop Amat High School I had the misfortune of being hit across the palms on a couple of occasions, but I consider myself lucky, I witnessed far worse. There were a couple of times I watched angry priests assaulting students. I mean physically man-handling them pushing, shoving and tossing them across the classroom slamming them into walls and desks. It was ugly. Some of those Sacred Heart priest definitely knew how to keep order in their classrooms. They didn’t take any crap.

I remember one time sitting in my World History class when all of a sudden, across the hall in Father Aidan’s English Class there was a loud commotion. It sounded like desk being thrown around the room. Our door was open as was his and several of us rushed to the doorway and stared across the hall into Aidan’s classroom. We could see the back of Father Aidan as he pummeled a student. I remember standing there transfixed not believing what I was seeing, when all at once Father Aidan turned around and looked right at us! It was like the look of death! He looked pissed. Never before have five students scrambled back to their desks so quickly. Each of us praying that Aidan hadn’t recognized us! A few minutes later Aidan escorted the young student down the hallway to the Dean’s office. As they went by our classroom Aidan looked in and glared at us. I thought for sure he was going to return and take care of us but he never did.  Speaking of never, we never did see that student again. He was expelled.

My senior year At Azusa High School was quite different than my Bishop Amat experience.  They also had corporal punishment but the teachers didn’t bully students like the priests did. I only saw two students get swatted that entire year. Both by my English teacher. He had this custom paddle hanging up behind his desk for all to see.  It resembled a boat oar  only smaller and had a series of holes drilled into the wide, flat section, less resistance that way. He called the paddle the Board of Education. Like I said before it was a hell of a deterrent.  The problems that did occur were related to truancy and tardies and handled by the Attendance Counselor who seemed to enjoy dolling out after-school detentions and  three day suspensions. I had my fair share of detentions but only one three day suspension.

I’ll never forget getting busted for being in possession of a phony call slip. A friend of mine had somehow gotten a hold of a pack of pre-signed call slips and began using them To call us out of class. It went well the first day and we should have stopped there, but of course we didn’t. The second day after receiving a call slip during second period I was headed for the student parking lot when Mr. Jackson the Attendance counselor materialized as if from thin air and busted me. I was sent home for three days and could only be readmitted after my mom came in to see Mr. Jackson.

On the third day of my suspension my mom and I went in after school to see Mr. Jackson.  He seemed quite pleased with himself on having us there. I’ll never forget the smug look on his face as he handed my mom a stack of notes and asked her if she would review them and certify that she had in fact signed them all. I was dead and I knew it. Nearly half of the notes were forgeries. It wouldn’t take her long to spot them. The entire time my mom reviewed the notes Mr. Jackson watched me with this sort of half grin on his face. He had me and he knew it.

Imagine my surprise when my mom handed back the stack of notes and told him that they were all signed by her. He looked crestfallen. He had thought for sure he had me and he did! I knew there would be hell to pay later, but my mom had saved my ass! Mr. Jackson told me I could return to school the following day, thanked my mom for coming in and that was that. Once we were seated in the car my my mom’s right arm shot out faster than I could have ever imagined and grabbed a fold of skin on my side. God it hurt! I probably still have the scar. She read me the riot act, grounded me for a couple of weeks, which meant my car would be locked in the garage and promise that if I ever forged her name a gain I was as good as dead. Suffice it to say I didn’t forge her name the rest of the school year. I knew she meant what she said. No idle threats with my mom, no sirree buddy! Yep, school has sure changed.

Just Saying…




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